Navkiran Natt, who was originally trained as a dentist and has a degree in film studies, is an activist who is involved in the current farmers‘ movement against three new, highly controversial agricultural laws in India. She actively participates in protests on the ground and co-edits Trolley Times, a creative multilingual newsletter by and for the movement. In this conversation, Dr. Fritzi-Marie Titzmann, postdoctoral fellow of the RePLITO project at Humboldt University in Berlin, talks with Navkiran Natt about the current scenario of the farmers‘ protest, the motivation for her own activism, and especially the media practices she uses to circulate information about and solidarity with the movement. Navkiran Natt describes the social dynamics of the physical protest sites as marked by mutual solidarity and community spirit that can serve as a model of peaceful human coexistence. In this, they also bear resemblance to neglected and marginalized repertoires of living together. In the context of social movements such as the ongoing Indian farmers’ protest, mediatized expressions of solidarity have the ability to enhance and transnationally circulate this experience of togetherness characterized by acceptance and support.
“Claims to loitering are fundamentally imagined as collective rather than individual. This sense of the collective is often missed by arguments that understand such protests as individualistic and neo-liberal (Shilpa Phadke, “Defending Frivolous Fun: Feminist Acts of Claiming Public Spaces in South Asia”, 2020:289). Shilpa Phadke is a Professor at the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is co-author of the critically acclaimed book Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets (2011) (together with Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade) and co-director of the documentary film Under the Open Sky (2016). Today, shrinking city-space, an increasing privatization and surveillance of public space as well as the ongoing socio-spatial segregation make it even more difficult to imagine an inclusive space where different marginalized groups and communities can come together to disrupt the taken-for-granted segregation of people, hierarchies, boundaries and build new alliances. Ten years after the publication of “Why loiter?” and subsequent emergence of a loitering movement in South Asian cities, Shilpa Phadke reflects in her conversation with Nadja-Christina Schneider on the continued relevance of key claims of the path-breaking book.
Cinema of Resistance (COR) is a grass roots film screening collective from India that focuses on forming new cultural spaces in small towns and villages through the screening of alternate films. The collective’s journey that began in 2006 with the Gorakhpur Film Festival has been instrumental in creating new circulatory networks around such films that deal with issues including labor rights, gender justice, human rights and environmental issues. Within this network, the screening of films become a catalyst for creating discussion spaces around such issues. Cinema of Resistance festivals are a regular event in the cultural calendar of many cities and towns outside the major metropolises of India including Udaipur, Patna, Gorakhpur, Allahabad, Lucknow, Ramnagar and Nainital.
In this interview with Dr. Shweta Kishore, the national convenor of Cinema of Resistance, Mr.Sanjay Joshi talks about the importance of alternate cinema in building interactive spaces where ordinary people can find ways of expression that goes beyond limits of state censorship and neoliberal logic of engagement. Dr. Shweta Kishore is a lecturer of Screen and Media at RMIT, Australia. Sanjay Joshi has made several documentaries and he has so far curated over 71 film festivals and screenings for cinema of resistance.
Shabnam Virmani is a documentary filmmaker from India and the initiator of the Kabir Project. Through the Kabir Project she has been exploring the philosophy of Kabir, Shah Latif and other mystic poets through a deep engagement with their oral folk traditions for close to two decades, ever since the riots of Gujarat in 2002 propelled her on this quest. Her inspiration in this poetry has taken the shape of 4 documentary films on Kabir, a digital archive called Ajab Shahar, writing books, organising urban festivals and rural yatras, singing and performing herself and infecting students with the challenge of mystic poetry. Currently she is working on a new idea to bring the power of mystic poetry and folk singers into school classrooms. In this conversation, Dr. Fathima Nizaruddin, a postdoctoral researcher with the International Research Group on Authoritarianism and Counter Strategies (IRGAC) of the Rosa Luxemburg-Stiftung interviews Shabnam Virmani about her journey with the Kabir Project for almost two decades. Shabnam talks about the relevance of the world view of Kabir and other mystics in contemporary times and the way in which Kabir Project has been able to carve out spaces of co-existence through the use of various means including songs, films, books, journeys as well as online platforms and a digital archive. She expands on the possibilities of creating circulations that can provide new repertoires of living together by drawing from poetic traditions around the work of mystics like Kabir who question the very basis of distinctions between the self and the other.